There are Christians who have strong opinions about what our prayer time should look like. I have come to realize that if I spent my time praying for what everyone else tells me I need to pray for, I would hardly ever leave my prayer room!
Someone who has a heart and anointing for missions will tell us we need to pray for missionaries daily. Someone who has a burden and calling for evangelism will tell us we need to pray for the unsaved every day. Others will try to open our eyes to the burden of praying daily for our schools and the students in them, or the government, or tell us we need to get more serious about spiritual warfare in our daily prayers, or pray a specific scripture every day.
And it doesn’t end there. We are told by those who are early risers that it is best to get up early to spend time in prayer. (Yes, I know the Psalms refer to that.) Some offer their thoughts about how much time we should spend in prayer each day (at least an hour, right?). And don’t forget to make your prayer list…
It often seems that since we can’t meet all these requirements put on us by the spiritual people around us, we pretty much give up on being able to do it right, and find ourselves fighting a heaping load of discouragement. And instead of being excited about spending time with the One who is head-over-heels in love with us, we allow ourselves to come under condemnation of what others say we should be praying about, which often causes us not to set time aside to pray at all.
Prayer itself is not supposed to be a burden. It is simply communication between God and the human beings He created and loves; with a deep love more than our finite minds can comprehend.
God used the darkest circumstance in my life to set me free in this area. I wrote about it in my book When Tragedy Strikes.
For me personally, over the years it has been easy to feel guilty in my quiet time with the Lord. I am either not following someone else’s pattern, or I’m not doing what I have been told by other Christians I should be doing. I “should” be reading my Bible for thirty minutes every day, or I “should” be on my knees praying for an hour, etc.
But during this time of learning how to rest in God’s presence, I was actually set free from that kind of guilt. In trying to “just be” with God, I never followed any kind of formula. If I wanted to pray, I prayed. If I wanted to sleep, I slept (usually with “soaking” music that would surround me with His presence). If I wanted to cry, I cried. If I wanted to praise Him with my voice or by lifting my hands, that’s what I would do. If I wanted to spend time reading my Bible, I would open it and read. I learned to just have times of intimacy between myself and my Lord, and that has become a permanent part of my life.
I rest in the love of my God, and we spend time together, just the two of us in the privacy of my prayer room. I don’t let what others do, or what others insist all Christians should do, dictate the intimate time set aside to be with my God, nor do I feel a need to tell others what they should be doing in their time of intimacy with Him.
I have come to learn that when I spend my times of intimacy with the Lord being led by the Holy Spirit in this way, what I should pray for and how long I should pray is naturally taken care of.
Here are seven things I have learned over the years about prayer, which have greatly increased my desire for spending time in communication with my Father.
- Don’t use what others tell you to pray for as your prayer guide. Ask God what He wants you to pray for.
- Keep it simple. Just pray your own words from your own heart.
- Don’t get caught up in loud or wordy prayers, thinking you have to get God’s attention. He came to Elijah in a still small voice, and it is okay to come to Him in the same way.
- You don’t have to come to Him at the same time every day. There is much to be said for routine and discipline, but many of us don’t have that luxury (such as mothers of small children).
- Don’t base the length of your prayer time on what others think it should be. Base it on your own needs and desires, which can change through the seasons of life.
- If you are praying a promise from the Word of God, speak it out loud. There is power in the spoken word. Use “voice activation” to put the power of God’s Word at work in your life and those you love.
- Realize the more time you spend with Him, the easier it is to hear Him speak to you.
Here is another excerpt from my book When Tragedy Strikes about the subject of prayer.
Thankfully, prayer is more than just time set aside every morning before starting your day, or a set gathering at church. Prayer is an ongoing conversation with God that can take place at any time, in any place. Talk to Him from your heart throughout the day, and then listen for His response. He is there, and He wants to be in communication with you. As you become more and more aware of His presence, you will occasionally hear Him initiate the conversation. You will be amazed at the healing that happens in those beautiful random moments of prayer.
When prayer is based in your own personal relationship with God, it becomes a joy. My relationship with my earthly father is different than my sister’s relationship with him. The same is true of our heavenly Father. As His children, we each have a unique relationship with Him, and our prayer life should be a reflection of that individual relationship.
Which of the seven thoughts about prayer spoke to you directly? I would love to hear from you in the comment section below.